Magazine article The New Yorker

Sexy Books

Magazine article The New Yorker

Sexy Books

Article excerpt

The other night, at a cozy restaurant in Los Angeles, the German publisher Benedikt Taschen celebrated his fiftieth birthday with a hundred and fifty friends, from Bruce Weber and Michael Govan to Martin Aguilar, his gardener. The tall, white-haired man in a corner wearing a pale-pink embroidered waistcoat and a silk cravat whose creamy color he likened to "vomen's undervear" was Edvins Paas, who cooks for Taschen in Cologne, where the company is based. "He vas a little boy selling his first art verks, and I vas a young artist," Paas recalled, of his first glimpse of Bene, age eight, sitting between two chestnut trees outside an art fair in Cologne, selling xeroxed sketches he had made of vampires. "In those days, Xeroxes vas very few. He sold them really expensive, and if people vanted a deal he stood his line." These days, Taschen Books is known for exalting fetish books to the status of art objects ("1000 Dessous: A History of Lingerie," "The Big Butt Book") and art books to that of fetish objects (Helmut Newton's sixty-five-pound, fifteen-hundred-dollar, limited-edition "Sumo").

Since buying John Lautner's Chemosphere, an octagonal bauble of a house on a thirty-foot concrete stem, in 1998, Taschen has spent quite a bit of his time in Los Angeles. The Chemosphere can be reached only by funicular; Taschen and his wife, Lauren, live with their year-old son in a more accessible structure at the base. "Benedikt looks at Los Angeles with a Weimar wit, the way Billy Wilder saw it," the director Michael Mann, who was attending the party with his wife, Summer, said. "It's everything from the Chemosphere to nineteen-fifties nudie magazines."

Bob Shaye, the founder of New Line Cinema, had a more concise vision of the Taschen aesthetic, and why it worked for him. "We both like art and sex," he said.

"Pretty much," Will Ferrell, who was standing with him, said. "But I don't know if it's in that order."

Taschen, elegant and slim and mostly bald, with a recessive chin and bulging eyes, was wearing a new suit for the occasion: gray, with wide-set magenta stripes. Hostly, he took Matt Groening over to meet Diane Keaton, who was picking at some risotto. "We put the Chemosphere on 'The Simpsons,' " Groening, the show's creator, said. "That's how we met. …

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